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Midlands Meccano Guild Model Report

(Author: Bob Thompson)

Model report written by Michael J. Walker

Saturday 8th October 2011


A crowded hall and plenty of excellent models set the tone for this memorable meeting of the Midlands Meccano Guild. In the absence of Mike Cook I was offered the privilege of preparing the model report, a job I was delighted to do. But where to begin in such a wonderland of Meccano excellence?

The place I happened to be when I had sorted out my note paper was as good a starting point as anywhere else, so I began gathering the information I needed.

A veritable animated diorama was provided by Tony Homden with his continually improved “Q” ship and submarine display. A vessel sailing under a neutral flag would, when confronted by a surfaced U-Boat, suddenly transform itself into a fully armed merchantman flying the White Ensign. Ready loaded guns would appear and the hapless U-Boat would find itself under heavy attack and soon sinking to the bottom of the sea. Tony’s model reproduced the firing guns, the changing of flags and even the sinking of the submarine into the void beneath the base.
The prototype A V Roe triplane known as “Bull’s Eye” was described by Tony as “an exercise in frustration”. Incorporating the necessary strength in the fuselage was a real challenge, using only rods and screwed rods with couplings and collars. Even so, the model showed many novel constructional ideas including the use of modern plastic king pins to provide a flexible fitting for the wings.

“More of a design exercise than a fully worked-out unit”

was Mike Edkins’ description of his undercarriage for a mobile crane or excavator. All four wheels of this sturdily built unit were driven via an internal 5:1 hub reduction gear.

 Also shown by Mike was a descending pendulum clock which he says falls into the “novelty class” as the time keeping is in the order of plus or minus five minutes over its 24-hour running period. In this design the driving weight is also the pendulum, requiring a special design of fusee as the period of the pendulum gets slower as it descends.

Mei Jones of Wales demonstrated two fine Railway Breakdown Cranes both powered by modern can motors and incorporating Mei’s own efficient design of sprung buffers. One of the cranes was based on the model depicted on the mid-late 1950s accessory outfit covers, and the other on the famous Supermodel 30 leaflet.

Stephen Wilson of Huddersfield showed the beginnings of a prototype diesel electric locomotive, using a mixture of post-war Meccano parts. The model’s notable features will include a propulsion unit employing no fewer than eight No. 1 Clockwork Motors (two of which were already in place), and traction wheels made up from modern tyred wheels.

A crank-operated scrolling destination display was only one of the attractive features on Terry Pettitt’s Bristol “Lodekka” double deck tour bus. Powered by a PDU via a three-speed and reverse gearbox, the model incorporated an opening bonnet and rear door, worm steering and a realistic-looking radiator made up from Meccano cord wrapped around a piece of card from a Meccano box.

Terry Walker displayed a Massey Ferguson 135 Tractor and a Breakdown Lorry based on the Outfit 9 model 10, but with added details.

I thought I was seeing double when I reached the impressive combined display by Richard Payn and John Hornsby. Both showed versions of the powerful Scammell Constructor heavy tractor. John’s was of the standard unit whilst Richard based his version on the “Super Constructor” which had a bigger engine and radiator to suit. The design of both models had benefitted greatly from co-operation between these two highly experienced builders, the gearbox in particular being of a highly realistic and efficient design.

Based on an Octopus fairground ride, Roger Burton’s “Helicopter Patrol” provided plenty of whirling action, with the original’s passenger seats being replaced by helicopters.


Paul Hubbard displayed two large and colourful fairground models – a big wheel and a roundabout in a red, yellow and zinc colour scheme. This latter model made use of a great many semi-circular plates as decoration around the top of its awning.

George Illingworth brought three models. The first was based on a Dinky Streamlined Fire Engine, now rebuilt to more accurately represent the Merryweather/Albion Limousine pump supplied to Lancaster Corporation in 1934 and featured on page 79 of the February 1936 MM.

The second model was of a 1959 Dennis F103 Emergency Tender. The prototype for this was fitted with twin bells, one hand, one electric, and it had orange rather than blue warning lights. The third model was a work in progress on the detailed interior of an NFS Mobile Repair Van.

The base of what will be a remodel of the Ruston No. 300 Dragline was shown by Ken Senar. True to form, Ken would have preferred to have constructed a model about 25% larger, but was restricted by the limited range of circular parts in the Meccano system. Even so, the newer range of Meccano parts now available will allow for many improvements, and Ken is resolved to use only today’s accepted parts without mutilation, filing or panel beating.

Christopher Bond displayed an unusual subject, the 1954 Rolls-Royce Flying Bedstead test rig. Research using this rig led to the Short SC1. Other, smaller, but no less attractive models by Christopher included a neat and realistic petrol tanker, utilising a Boiler for its tank.

Using 95% reclaimed Meccano, stripped completely and repainted, Dave Phillips’ much-modified version of the SML 28 Twin Cylinder Steam Engine worked silently and smoothly throughout. Dave pointed to the Flanged Rings as the main modification, being a substitute for the original Channel Segments, but mentioned that there were many smaller improvements also.

The April 1956 issue of Meccano Magazine featured a Bedford car transporter as its “Model of the Month”, and John Palmer showed the nicely-contoured and realistic tractor unit from this; with the trailer definitely in prospect for a future model-building session. Also on display by John was a Set 5 lorry and breakdown truck.

A novel design of “City Concept Car”, built by Dave Bradley, showed the three-wheel layout of the original plus a neat differential on the rear axle.

Terry Wilkes brought two models along; one was of a Massey Ferguson 135, claimed by some to have been one of the world’s greatest ever agricultural tractors, and the other was the Breakdown Lorry model 9:10 from the 1970 manuals. Details were added to this model utilising unused remaining parts from the number 9 set.

The action of the Corliss Valve Gear on Keith Way’s Mill Engine was seen to full advantage in his attractive model from the pre-war K outfit.

Merkur, the Czechoslovakian construction system, may be incompatible with Meccano but is no less eye-catching for that. David Hobson showed a fine Tractor built from this system, and also a large and capable block-setting crane.

A complete diorama of an RFC/RAF WW1 aerodrome formed an unusual contribution by John Reid of Warwick. The four types of WW1 fighter featured included a Sopwith Camel “puller” biplane, a Fokker Eindekker “puller” monoplane, a DH 2 “pusher” biplane and a Sopwith Tri-plane.

John also showed a Combine Harvester built from the Set 10 leaflet 13, incorporating many improvements including a weight to keep the rear wheels on the ground.

Joseph Attard’s design for an American ten-wheeled tractor as seen in Constructor Quarterly No. 76, was the inspiration for Mark Rolston’s part-built chassis. Employing a combination of ash tray tyres and Watt’s industrial tyres from Mike Rhoades, the chassis already looked most imposing. Mark was able to fit these tyres on some remarkably realistic spun metal wheel rims for which he had appropriate wheel centres made out of solid brass.
Reproduction narrow angle girders were employed to good effect in Mark’s second model, a crawler tracked crane with full remote control.

John and Joyce Sleaford showed a brace of Harrier Jump Jets, an attractive rotating radar scanner built from a 2010 Marks & Spencer set, and a Scammell Show Tractor with opening rear doors, chain drive to the rear wheels and many other interesting features.

Colin Reid from Leyland showed a millionaire’s wish list of antique steam engines. A rare “Bing” vertical steam engine was placed side by side with a 1914 Meccano version, and the two were found to be very similar - an early example of rebadging? Other goodies on display included Stuart Turner steam engines and a generator; a home-made hot air engine and a 1920s Falk steam engine.

Robert Moore, Stan Rigby and Clive Kingston provided a display of “Meccano through the ages” using a wide selection of models. These ranged from a battleship of the 1930s, through some red and green models of the 1950s, and up to the “Extreme” series of the present day.

Mostly 1950s red and green Meccano was used to construct the motor bike and sidecar combination, which was shown by John Evans. The sidecar was inspired by the Austin “Swallow” car and benefitted from torsion bar suspension. The motor bike had a shaft drive similar to the Sunbeam S7, with other parts based on the Douglas “Dragonfly”.

“The Boxers” from the November 1935 Meccano Magazine were toughing it out again in the midst of Tony Parmee’s display. Another MM inspired model – this time from June 1956 – was the “Merry Miller” wind vane. Other models on view included an automatic crane gear box built from the MM for October 1957 and a selection of “Spherical Solids” inspired by part 2 of the recent TV series “Code”.

Richard Gilbert of Devizes in Wiltshire displayed a Railway Breakdown Crane based on number 30 of the Supermodel series, plus a Harrier Jump Jet from one of the more recent single-model sets.

The popular fork-lift truck (model 18) from the late 1950s Outfit 6 manual was demonstrated by Mick Burgess, along with a stylish sports car from page 115 of the March 1962 ‘MM’, and the Articulated Tanker model no. 8.9 from the 1962-70 Outfit 7/8 manual.

Alan Covel’s “Only Fools and Horses” Del Boy Reliant Regal Van in one-third scale was back on the road, this time towing a one-fourth scale matching yellow colour, USA design,

1954 Cardinal Travel Trailer (or ‘caravan’ to us Brits). The Reliant van runs on three hub discs fitted with Mothercare pram tyres and the scale of the trailer was dictated by the radius of the 5½” curved strips defining its contoured outline.


Painstakingly accurate detail was very much in evidence in Terry Allen’s beautifully presented Brough Superior SS100. 

The 980cc twin cylinder engine was represented as was the three-speed gearbox and cable operated front brake.



John Bland’s AEC Regent open-top tour bus derived its inspiration from the model shown on page 140 of the March 1954 MM. It incorporated many improvements including a staircase made up of semi-circular plates and was powered by an E15R motor.

 A novel sit-on lawn mower, following the design of one that John had seen being used on a French caravan site, used bowden cable parts to elevate the cutting gear. The blades were connected to the wheels so they rotated as the model was pushed along.

John Nuttall displayed his Double Flyboats built from Supermodel leaflet 33A. Using only contemporary pre-war red/green period parts throughout, it gave an authentic impression of how the original would have appeared during the 1930s.

Geoff Devlin used predominantly red, green and shiny zinc parts to model his version of the Huddersfield Corporation Trams Double-Deck Single Truck Car. Originally supplied with open tops, the prevailing weather no doubt encouraged Huddersfield Corporation to add roofs to their examples. Among the many fine details reproduced in Geoff’s model were the G.P.O. letter boxes fixed in front of the brake wheels.
As a footnote, Geoff adds that his mother, as a young girl, accidentally fell in front of a moving Southport tram. Luckily the driver was fully alert and was able “to operate the Life Guard Gate and the Drop Tray, which scooped her up. Fortunately, she only suffered scratches and bruises.” A lucky escape to be sure!

The ‘Grasshopper’ design of Steam Engine was intended to bypass James Watt’s parallel motion patent, and Tony Wakefield’s model amply demonstrated the motion of this alternative configuration.

Geoff Wright made the trip from Henley to display an attractive example chosen from his range of buses and tramcars. The U.C.C. “Feltham” class tramcar that Geoff displayed was built to 1/16 scale and, despite being limited to the contents of a 1950s Outfit 9, was highly realistic in outline with its contoured roof line and driver’s controls.

Brian Compton of Nuneaton confessed to having misgivings as to whether his model would be well received at the meeting. 

Of course he need not have worried as his model of a rotary coal loader and unloader, based on the Oscar Fontan design, attracted much favourable attention throughout the day. Using electronics to actuate and time the various functions, the model smoothly and efficiently managed the flow of material via dredger buckets from a hopper, then down a chute into waiting railway trucks, then along the line to the tippler where the trucks were individually turned upside down, their loads falling back into the hopper.

Brian’s message to other club members is, “Give electronics a chance – they work very well with Meccano!”

The distinctive design of GWR Railcar shown by Matthew McCallum earned it the name “Flying Banana”. The original on which the model is based, is on display at the ‘STEAM’ museum at Swindon.

Roy Whitehouse based his 1/5 scale model of a Vickers gas engine, with two flywheels, on a Terry Pettitt original. Also shown by Roy was a Supermodel Traction Engine, built totally to the original design in beautifully restored blue and glittering gold parts to dazzle the eye.

Pressure of space made it necessary for Ken Wright to position the G-gauge track against the wall, for his 1877 0-4-0 De-Winton quarry loco “Chaloner”to operate. Built in resplendent red, green and black parts, Ken’s 1/12 scale model was a treat to see from any angle.

The Fairey “Gannet” of the 1950s was mostly employed by the Royal Navy for search and rescue plus anti-submarine rôles. When not undertaking these duties, they could be used for transporting VIPs such as Admirals. Brian Edwards’ version of this aircraft, in red and green parts, accurately reproduced the distinctive fuselage shape, contra-rotating propellers and folding wings of the prototype. Also shown by Brian was a 1920 Garratt undertype steam wagon, with a differential situated in the gearbox and chain drives to the pivotted rear axles. Plans bought from Leiston Museum in Suffolk were most useful to Brian in the design of this model.

John MacDonald showed two fine tractor models, the first of which was based on a 1919 “Otaco” tractor which was specifically designed for the small farmer. Based on the mass-produced (and hence inexpensive) Ford Model “A”, the tractor allowed many farmers to retire their horses from arduous work. John’s version included such details as a three-speed & reverse gearbox, lights and a front power take-off. This model, finished in yellow overall, pulled a hay rake mounted on wheels from an Action Man bike.
John’s second tractor was of a more freelance design powered by a non-Meccano motor, with four-wheel drive, differential, a three-speed & reverse gearbox plus lights and a powered winch.

John Molden brought a Volvo FH12 6x4 tractor unit with 6 speed & reverse gearbox with working clutch and handbrake. This was coupled to a tri-axle articulated trailer used for transporting sections of his “Wild Mouse” fairground roller coaster ride.

The “Time Goddess” clock built by new member Tim Martin from Leicester, attracted much attention.


This employed a self-winding mechanism based on a differential for its two input sources (falling weight and a motor which switches itself on every twenty minutes to lift the weight). Other features included a fine-tuning device for the pendulum length and a unique extra “hours + minutes” hand, rotating 26 times a day, allowing the time to be read, as Tim says, “without the tedium of looking at two hands!”

Bob Thompson had brought along, the late Chris Beckett’s 1949 No.7 Red and Green open-topped early double-decker bus. This freelance design looks especially neat at this scale, since it uses flexible plates from the time before slotted holes were introduced.

As always, apologies are extended to anyone I missed in this model report, or for any inaccuracies in model details. I did try to make sure I included everyone, even to the extent of ringing the bell (which got me into hot water with the committee!) and asking if there was anyone I had not yet consulted. No replies were offered, so I felt able to conclude that I had gathered all the information necessary.

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